Cranleigh make-up artist Jemma Kidd on family, famous connections and her make-up school
PUBLISHED: 15:22 11 October 2010 | UPDATED: 12:56 03 May 2018
Surrey born and bred, make-up artist Jemma Kidd has returned to her roots and set up an international make-up business in a green and leafy lane near Cranleigh. Tracy Cook put on her very best lipstick and went to meet her
I feel nervous applying my make-up this morning. I smooth on some foundation (is my face looking a bit orange?), blend eyeshadow in a desperate bid to make my eyes look bigger (as if !) and spend dangerously long, given the train schedule, searching for the exact whereabouts of the apples of my cheeks.
I may have worn make-up for more than half my life, but still feel I haven't quite mastered it. Like many women, I happily stick to a few basics I've doubtless worn for far too long. So it is with great trepidation I set off today to interview Jemma Kidd, make-up artist to the stars.
My anxieties melt away, however, from the moment I meet Jemma. There is no other word for it: she is lovely. She strides across her office to greet me, striking, tall and gazelle-like. It is easy to see why she was a model: her complexion is dewy, her blue eyes framed by long curled lashes, her full lips glowing. Dressed in jeans and black stiletto heels, she looks effortlessly natural (though as an international make-up artist, you would expect no less) and her face betrays no sign of the jet lag she is apparently feeling.
As we sit at a table and sip water, she explains that she has just got back from the States and then spent the very next day making up her sister, the world-famous model Jodie Kidd, at a photo shoot to launch the new Goodwood golf course in Sussex. The pair have a great relationship and are the best of friends.
"I love it when we work together; it's really good fun," says Jemma. "She used to try to tell me what make-up to use, but I just told her to shut up! Now we've proved everything we need to and we just have a laugh! People seem to like being around that and so we're often booked together."
Growing up in Ewhurst
Jemma grew up with Jodie and their brother Jack, a professional polo player, on their grandmother's stud farm at Ewhurst, near Cranleigh. She had a privileged background: her great-grandfather was Lord Beaverbrook, press baron and owner of the Daily Express, who also owned Cherkley Court, near Leatherhead.
"We lived in a separate house on my grandmother's land, so when we were little we could walk across the fields to see her," says the 33-year-old. "I was obsessed with horses and loved to ride around all that beautiful countryside from Ewhurst to Shere."
A former pupil of Longacre School in Shamley Green, it was while there she discovered she had a talent for art.
"I love colour and design: if I hadn't gone into make-up, I would have become an artist," she says. "I wasn't into girly make-up back then. If I'd had a Barbie it would have been an equestrian one!"
Now, in her new role as businesswoman, she has based the headquarters of her company, Jemma Kidd Make-Up School, in a timbered barn down a country lane near Cranleigh. Two years ago, she launched her own collection from there and she visits regularly to design new products with her team of 12. It is hard to believe that this peaceful setting is the hub of an international make-up company.
"I call it the Guildford mafia!" laughs Jemma. "You wouldn't believe how much of the beauty industry is based in the area - we get all our packaging and printing done locally and I'm often down here for meetings. But I hate anything corporate, so I love the laid-back atmosphere of the barn. In the summer, we hold meetings in the little garden outside overlooking the fields. And Jodie lives just ten minutes' away from the office, so going down there is a good excuse to pop in on her."
She is ambitious for the Surrey business and wants to see it expand.
"I'm so competitive. We all are in my family. I can't just be a make-up artist, no! I have to be the next Estée Lauder!" she laughs. "I don't know what's wrong with us!
"Seriously, though, education is my thing. I wanted to create make-up that every woman could understand. Friends used to say, 'teach me how to put on make-up', and I realised make-up can be really intimidating. So I wanted to simplify it and create products that women really wanted to use."
True to her word, every one of her products comes with a mini-masterclass on how to use it.
Make-up artist to the stars
Teaching is clearly important to Jemma: she also runs her own make-up school in London, offering courses to both professional make-up artists and to what she calls 'real women'.
In between, she works as a make-up artist to some of the most well-known faces in the world - from Sienna Miller and Jade Jagger to Joely Richardson and the Duchess of York and, of course, supermodels. "I love making up Helena Christensen - she is beautiful and Erin O'Connor - she has an amazing face." She is frequently in demand for catwalk shows, helping top designers like Antonio Berardi, Philip Treacy and Jasper Conran, and her work regularly appears in magazines including Vogue, Elle and Vanity Fair.
Now she is busy launching her new spring/summer collection: its theme, the English rose, was inspired by the walled garden that she shares with husband Arthur Wellesley, Earl of Mornington and heir to the Duke of Wellington. Their cottage is in the grounds of the ancestral home Stratfield Saye House, near Reading.
"Last summer, I'd be walking in this beautiful garden where there are 100-year-old roses and I'd think 'that's a beautiful blush or a soft petal'," says Jemma. "So the new collection is about rose pinks and shimmering greens."
I wonder if she constantly sees women whose make-up she wishes she could sort out for them.
"Oh, all the time!" she laughs. "There are so many common mistakes. Using the wrong colours, or wrong foundation; too heavy application; covering the wrong area; using make-up that doesn't suit you..."
I'm busy mentally ticking off all those boxes when to my horror, she leans over and scrutinises my face. I confess I was rather nervous applying my own this morning, and she groans resignedly, aware that she has this effect on people.
She sits back. "Your make-up looks good," she says kindly. Hallelujah! Jemma has made my day. I told you she was lovely.
Jemma's top make-up tips
1 Less is more: make-up should not be used as a mask to hide behind but to accentuate your best features - for example, good skin tone, full lips or high cheekbones.
2 To open the eyes, highlight the brow bone just below the arch of your eyes and curl your lashes.
3 Maintaining the brows is often overlooked, but defined, shaped, tidy brows really make a difference. If they are too heavy they can make the eyes look smaller and sunken and if they are too thin they can be ageing.
4 When applying dramatic eye make-up, always do your eyes first before applying foundation. That way, you avoid dropping flecks of eye shadow and ruining the rest of your make-up.
5 Apply a primer underneath your foundation. They are extremely useful as they blot away excess oil, even out skin tone and help foundation adhere to the skin.
My favourite Surrey...
Restaurant: "Cambio's in Guildford. It's a great Italian. We had our office Christmas party there."
Shop: "The Courtyard in Guildford. It sells gorgeous clothes."
View: "Pitch Hill. I really love it up there."
Place to chill: "Jodie's place near Cranleigh. I can pop in so easily now the office is close by."